Amazon’s new Show Mode feature for their Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 tablets does a great job of replicating most of the Echo Show’s capabilities, as I discussed in my earlier article about the feature. The Show Mode Dock for those tablets is an optional accessory that adds a level of convenience to the Show Mode feature by holding the tablet at a viewable angle and seamlessly automating the transition between Show Mode and regular tablet mode.
The Show Mode Dock is sold in a Fire HD 8 variant for $34.99 and a Fire HD 10 variant for $49.99. You can also buy the dock bundled with a Fire HD 8 for $109.99 or bundled with a Fire HD 10 for $189.99, which, for either bundle, is slightly cheaper than buying the dock and tablet separately. Amazon also sells just the case portion for the Fire HD 8 for $14.99 and just the case portion for the Fire HD 10 for $24.99, so if you have multiple tablets, you could buy one dock and use it for multiple tablets by purchasing additional cases.
In the box, you get a case, the dock, a power adapter, and a micro USB cable that plugs into the back of the dock. Interestingly, the power adapter that comes with the Show Mode Dock is a 9W adapter, whereas the power adapter that comes with Amazon’s tablets is a 5W adapter. I assume this is because Show Mode draws more power in certain instances than the original adapter can deliver, so you’ll want to use the included power adapter and not just plug your current power adapter into the dock.
The case that remains attached to the tablet is nearly identical in shape to Amazon’s official tablet cases but without the front cover. There are openings on the top for the tablet’s speakers, but there is no opening on the bottom for the micro SD card slot, so you’ll need to remove the tablet from the case to access its expandable storage slot. The sides of the case, apart from the corners, are open, giving easy access to the headphone jack and buttons.
On the back of the case is an opening for the camera and a pair of metal circles that make contact with two small prongs on the dock. This is how the tablet wirelessly charges when it is mounted in the dock. The case has a white low-profile micro USB plug that you leave connected to the tablet. The plug slides in and out and is hinged so it can easily be moved out of the way if you need to remove the tablet from the case.
My only complaint about the case is that it does not have a kickstand. The regular tablet case that Amazon makes is designed in such a way that the cover can be folded back to serve as a kickstand. You lose that functionality with this case since the Show Mode Dock case has no front cover. It would be great if future versions of the Show Mode Dock case came with an embedded kickstand, but I suspect that future Amazon tablets may come with the charging circles built directly into the back of the tablet, negating the need for a case entirely.
The stand portion of the Show Mode Dock is fairly unobtrusive. It’s made of plastic but is heavier than it looks, so I suspect there is metal inside weighing it down so it doesn’t move when you’re interacting with the tablet’s touchscreen. There are also 4 rubber feet, two on the front and two on the hinged portion, to help keep it from sliding on a smooth surface.
The hinged leg allows the dock to be positioned almost vertically, completely flat, or anywhere in between. Two cutouts for the cord and a recessed micro USB port allow the dock to be adjusted to any angle without the cord getting in the way or making it wobble.
There are magnets to the left and right of the charging points on both the case and the stand that help you properly align the tablet to the dock. When you place the tablet on the dock, you can feel when the magnets align, so you know it’s in the correct position. I would have liked the magnets to be stronger so that they pull the tablet into alignment if it’s off-center. It’s relatively easy to place the tablet down in the wrong position if you’re not careful, so you pretty much always have to slide the tablet left or right until you feel the magnets align, unless you took the time to initially center it as it’s being placed down.
When you place the tablet on the Show Mode Dock, it automatically switches into Show Mode. When you lift the tablet up, it automatically switches back into regular tablet mode. There is an option in the settings to disable this behavior if you prefer to manually control when it switches modes. Switching can be done manually by either tapping a toggle option in the drop-down notification panel, or by saying “Alexa, launch/exit Show Mode.” You can switch between modes anytime while the tablet is docked, even if the automatic setting is enabled.
A sound/chime is played out of the tablet’s speakers every time it is docked and undocked. While it’s a reassuring sound that lets you know you properly aligned the charging points, there doesn’t appear to be a way to disable the sound so I can see it becoming annoying, especially when docking/undocking the tablet at night while others are asleep. If you mute the tablet’s speakers altogether, you won’t hear the sound.
Another gripe I have is that there is very little control over the state of the display. There are several options to control what is displayed, such as what ambient information (i.e., Home Cards) is displayed, if a clock should be shown while asleep, or whether or not to display photos. But there aren’t any options to control when the screen should be on, when it should be asleep, when it should be off entirely. The tablet seems to use the front camera to detect motion and wake up on its own, and you can always wake it up by tapping the screen or speaking an Alexa command, but I would have liked to have more granular control over the screen’s state. You also cannot tell Alexa to turn off the screen, like you can with the Echo Show, so you must press the power button to turn the screen off.
Ultimately, the lack of screen control doesn’t affect the dock or the tablet’s functionality much, but it would have been nice to have. Overall, the Show Mode Dock is a great addition to the Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 tablet. Paired with the Show Mode feature, it adds a lot of functionality to the tablet for not much more money. As long as you’re okay with not having powerful speakers, the lack of drop-in support (plus missing other minor features), as mentioned in my Show Mode overview, the Show Mode Dock is an excellent alternative to the Echo Show.